Video Isn't Working

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Video isn't working. That's what many publishers have come to realize, according to a September article in the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Heidi N. Moore. Ever since first reading the article I wanted to post some of my thoughts here, and am now finally getting around to it. But first, if you're interested in journalism and/or video, please go read the article. It's very well-written and worth your time.

Before diving into my thoughts on the article, I want to point out that I will be approaching this from the perspective of a video producer. I'm a storyteller, but not a journalist. I'll leave it to the journalists to discuss their own experiences (and please do). But speaking as a video production professional, I agree with Moore's observations. Allow me to highlight four of her points, along with my commentary, and some takeaways.

Video is Expensive

Publishers have laid off writers and turned to video, thinking that somehow they'll save money in the process, while driving up their readership and revenue. But it costs a lot of money to produce unique, quality video. Even in 2017 I still have to educate others about the costs of video and why it's so expensive. I don't know what the root cause is for the misconception (perhaps it's the democratization of the equipment and the low barrier to entry), but it's a misconception that has led many people to believe that incredible video can be produced cheaply. Click here to read more about video production misconceptions. 

Consider this quote from the article:

Video is the most expensive and time-consuming of the multimedia disciplines. To cut a 30-second video can take hours of detailed work—which requires a good eye, good physical reflexes to capture the right moments, enormous patience, and the ability to time images, sound, text, and graphics seamlessly.
— Heidi N. Moore

Takeaway: Just like any professional in any industry, an experienced, reputable video production company will charge the going market rate for services. Don't expect quality production work to be done cheaply, or for free. We don't ask that of any other businesses, as the following video points out:

Video is an Investment

Today, more and more brands are taking their work in-house, opting for their own marketing departments and video production teams, instead of working with a traditional agency. And, as Moore points out, media publishers have also. They've decided to get rid of their writing staff in favor of video. But here's the main problem for publishers, and the main lesson for those brands who want to do everything in-house: You have to invest in video and give your team all the resources they need to produce good work. Moore emphasizes "low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content" as two of her four reasons why the pivot to video has failed.

As Moore writes, "Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investment in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries. This won’t help video grow."

Takeaway: If you're going to do it, do it right. If you currently have an in-house video production team, or are making that transition, give them the very best tools to do the job. Don't expect them to produce masterful videos with one hand tied behind their backs.

Video Requires Planning

Clients and internal partners like the idea of video, but many times they don't have a clearly defined strategy for video. The notion of "let's just go out and capture it and then figure out what to do with the footage later," is not a well-defined video strategy for reaching your marketing goals. Video is more than grabbing a camera, running out to the location, and pressing Record. Consider Moore's observation, "The biggest problem with the pivot to video is that it’s not well-considered strategy. Instead, it’s been born of desperation." 

Of course Moore is talking specifically about media publishers, but the same can be said for many businesses who are using video. Considerations must be made when diving into video. One size doesn't fit all

Video Should Be Good

If all of the above considerations are made, then your video will be good. But if you rush into video without the right plan, the right tools, or the right investment, you will be left with video that just, frankly, isn't very good, as Moore writes, "Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated 'snackable' video. That’s no one’s idea of success." Differentiation comes when the proper value is placed on the process itself.

There's a place for video. People still want video. Moore isn't suggesting that publishers abandon video, but rather incorporate video into a, "balanced multimedia approach...that includes well-written, well-reported stories, strong data and graphics, and good art."

3 Tips for Editing a Short Film Trailer

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Why would anyone want to produce a trailer for a short film? That's a valid question. After all, a short film is just that - short. So, you run the risk of giving too much away if you produce a trailer. But there are two good reasons why you need one:

  • It creates interest in your project.
  • Some festivals and competitions will ask for one.

So if you have a short film project in the can and need to cut a trailer, here are a three tips based on my own experiences. Feel free to add your own in the Comments section.

1. SET THE TONE AND CREATE HYPE

The main goal of the trailer is to create interest in your project. This is extremely important if you plan on running a crowdfunding campaign to help offset post-production costs or marketing and submission expenses. Potential contributors want to know what your film is about. They want to see if their money is going to a competent filmmaker who knows his/her craft. So use the trailer as an opportunity to showcase some of the best shots in the film. Use the pace of the edit and the musical score to establish mood, tone, and perhaps genre. Here's the trailer for my upcoming short Big and Tall

2. KEEP IT SHORT

This cannot be overstated. Remember, you are editing a trailer for a short film. I've seen trailers for short films that are over 2 minutes long and they practically tell you everything that happens in the film. Think about what a 2-minute trailer would give away if the entirety of the film was only 6 minutes. More often than not, you should treat the trailer for your short like a teaser, anywhere from 10-30 seconds. Here's the trailer for a 6-minute short I worked on called Sanctum. 

And here's the trailer for another 6-minute short I directed called Exodus Road. 

Your trailer should give away nothing more than what you've already written in the logline (the one-sentence synopsis of the film). Take Exodus Road for example. The logline for that film is "A young couple makes a bold decision that will forever change their lives and open them up to a world beyond their own." And the trailer supports the premise, giving away nothing more substantial than that.

 3. NO NAMES

You know how most big-budget, studio-backed, feature trailers use titles like, "From the Director of ___________  starring Academy-Award Winner _____________ ?" Of course you do. We've all seen them. However, unless your short also stars an actor with some renown, don't do this. Just set up the premise, the mood, and the tone of the film. Then give us the title. That's it. No one is really interested in who wrote and directed the film, or who stars in it. Remember, your goal is to create interest in your project. You do that through the visuals and the sound.

That's it. Three quick tips that have helped me when editing short film trailers. Care to share your own experiences? Do so in the Comments.

'Big and Tall' Officially Selected to Indie Memphis

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My short film Big and Tall is an official selection to Indie Memphis. The film festival hosted a preview party last night and unveiled the full lineup. Executive Director Ryan Watt talked about the number of films screening this year (approximately 240), while highlighting some of the exciting films, filmmakers, and events attendees can expect from the festival, which is now in its 20th year.

The crowd listens as Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt previews this year's festival at the Indie Memphis Preview Party, Sept. 26, 2017.

The crowd listens as Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt previews this year's festival at the Indie Memphis Preview Party, Sept. 26, 2017.

I'm extremely excited that Big and Tall's premiere will be at Indie Memphis, because this is a film created by a very talented group of Memphis-based actors and filmmakers. This project has been over two years in the making and I'm grateful to everyone who has supported this film throughout the process. 

Go here to see the festival schedule and make plans to attend November 1-6.